Pocahontas County Schools Present Proposed School Project to the School Building Authority
On November 10th, I talked with Pocahontas County Interim School Superintendent Terrence Beam about his presentation to the West Virginia School Building Authority (SBA) in support of the Schools’ request for funding. Mr. Beam.
“Good morning, Tim, it is always good to have the opportunity to talk to you and the citizens of Pocahontas County about our schools” said Beam. “Yesterday (November 9th) Mr. Grimes (School Board President Emery Grimes) traveled to Charleston to do a presentation before the School Building Authority to request funding for renovations for two of our schools. The School Building Authority was established by the Legislature several years ago, and their sole purpose is to hand out money to counties to renovate or replace existing facilities.”
Mr. Beam talks about the first part of the project submitted to the SBA
“So yesterday we talked to them about Marlinton Elementary School and our strong desire to move the students from Marlinton Elementary School out of the flood plain and relocate them at Marlinton Middle School” said Beam. “And so we talked to them about that and what the cost would be. The Architects tell us that the cost would be about 10 million dollars to make that change. Of course that would include all new fire systems and sprinkler systems and air conditioning and building on more classrooms and another cafeteria possibly and different things. But the first part of that project is to move those students. The second part of the project was to renovate Green Bank Elementary/Middle School. Green Bank Elementary/Middle School has a lot of problems with their facilities, especially their furnaces, their fire alarm systems, their smoke detectors, their sprinkler systems, the sewerage -just numerous problems that they have that we in Pocahontas County cannot financially support to fix these up to the standards that they need to be.”
So, I asked what the prognosis is – does it look like the SBA will help us? Mr. Beam
“So we applied to SBA in October, we presented yesterday and we will hear something back on December 14th, said Mr. Beam. We may be funded entirely, we may be funded partially or we may not be funded at all. But the sense I received from the questions that were asked was that they understand that we have major issues with our flooding and with our buildings being as old as they are and that they are willing to find ways to help us.”
Beam discusses what happens if our requests are approved.
“Then we would be required to come up with matching funds” said Beam. “Those matching funds would probably have to come through a levy. Talking to some of the business leaders and some of the citizens in our County, there seems to be some interest in trying to run a levy if the sole purpose of that levy is to improve our facilities. And that’s what this would be. If SBA grants us the money, it would be contingent on us providing some type of matching funds. It’s not 50-50, but some type of matching funds.”
Beam points out that if those projects work out; the next step involves making the High school a 7th through 12th school. Mr. Beam.
“So that’s our first goal” said Beam. “The other part of that is our intent to move our 7th and 8th graders to the High School and make that a 7th through 12th facility. And that’s a long ways down the road, as is this first step. I don’t envision this first step, even if approved, to go into effect until the 2017-2018 school year.”
So what happens if SBA doesn’t approve the funding? Mr. Beam.
“Then we have to either look at running a levy or a bond or something to improve our facilities” said Beam. “Or just leave things as they are, patch as we go and do the best we can. As I said before, I don’t think that option is a very good option because our buildings are really in bad condition.”
Mr. Beam illustrated just how bad things are with the maintenance budget for all the school buildings.
“Our current budget only provides us with between $150,000 and $170,000 a year to maintain our buildings since we do not have a levy said Mr. Beam. “For example, we need to replace the sewer system at the High School. The estimate for replacing the sewer system at the High school is $200.000. That’s more than our entire (maintenance) budget for the entire year. So if you do something like that, how do you fix all these other issues at the schools?”
Mr. Beam promised to come back after the SBA’s December 14th decision and discuss with us what happened and where to go from there.